The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named ten non-government organizations (NGOs), including Omidyar, a US-based organization, as accused in the case of allegedly conspiring to illegally facilitate the registration and renewal of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licenses. FCRA is a mandatory requirement to receive foreign funds.
The FCRA unit is part of the Foreigners Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs and it offers services such as renewal of registration, filing annual returns, and even fresh registration. To maintain transparency, most of the services are online. Omidyar was placed on a watch list by the MHA last year and all of its foreign donations were restricted.
Omidyar Network is a venture of The Omidyar group that has invested in many fields like media, digital society, education, emerging tech, and many others. The NGOs and their associates named as accused in the FIR have been identified as Vageesh, Chartered Accountant, on behalf of Ganga Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (GOREF); Robin Devadass of NGO The Social Project; Swapan Manna, representative of Srijan Foundation; Chinappan Pichai Pillai of Ayries Multipurpose Social Service Society; Ramaswamy Ranganathan of Centre for Tribal & Rural Development Trust; Alfred Mohanty administrator of CLC (Christian Life Centre Ministries); Katherina Suresh Kumar, representative of NGO Harvest India; Lungawiruol Khawbung, General Secretary of the organization Reformed Presbyterian Church North East India; Bishnu Mour, President of Nayi Roshni Foundation, a Guwahati based NGO and Promoters of NGO Omidyar.
“On 24 April this year, one Devesh Chandra Mishra, pursued clearing of permission for receiving foreign remittance worth Rs three crore as a donation for an NGO namely Omidyar contacted Tushar Kanti Roy. And in return, Roy assured arranging permission but demanded 10 percent of the total remittance as a bribe. Devesh Mishra asked for negotiation of the bribe amount as 10 percent is too high for the said work. Devesh Mishra told Tushar Kanti Roy that the promoters of NGO Omidyar are ready to pay Rs 5 lakhs. Finally, Tushar Kanti Roy told that for Rs 5 lakhs only he can’t talk with his colleagues, they have to give at least seven percent of the foreign donation as a bribe as he has to give it to others as well,” the FIR stated. A senior CBI officer said that over the period these FCRA officials along with middlemen have developed a nexus to extort money to provide a favorable report to NGOs to receive foreign funds. The NGOs then paid bribes to get requisite clearance for foreign funds.
“The case is under investigation and more names of NGOs will be added if any are found in the investigation,” said the official. There were 16,890 FCRA-registered NGOs as of Tuesday.
The FCRA registration of nearly 6,000 NGOs had ceased to operate from January 1 as MHA refused to renew their application or the NGOs did not apply for registration. On Wednesday, CBI arrested 14 accused including six public servants, and recovered cash of Rs 3.21 crore (approximately), for alleged “illegal clearance” of FCRA licenses instead of bribes.